These onion-flavored green rounds are often found on takeaway or in miso soup. However, scallions—spring staples—are sold under several names. Scallions, often known as green or spring onions, provide considerable flavour to practically any dish. We explain everything about the produce so you can recognise scallions, green onions, and spring onions at your local grocery store or farmers’ market.
How scallions, green onions, and spring onions differ
Ultimately, green onions and scallions are the same, says Juliet Glass, director of communications at FRESHFARM, a Mid-Atlantic non-profit that runs producer-only farmers’ markets. However, spring onions are “similar enough” to use interchangeably, she notes.
Lawrence Tse, Dig farm manager, says scallions are long, slender, straight, and lack a huge bulb at the bottom. Dark green tops fade to white bases. He adds that scallions taste mild like onions but without the sting. Scallions taste like Spanish onions, says Chef’s Garden grower Lee Jones. Debra Moser, co-founder of Central Farm Markets in Washington D.C., adds that onions become more flavorful and spicy while they sit in the ground.
Spring onions are similar, but Glass says their white bottoms have larger bulbs. Moser says it tastes sweeter than green onions or scallions. Tse adds that spring onions are onion plants plucked before they mature, thus the base is wider and the bulb is often visible. He says spring onions are picked before they’re fully formed because they’re usually picked in summer for storage.
All of these are immature onions, says Catherine Perez, M.S., R.D., registered dietitian and Plant-Based R.D. blog owner. Keep in mind that green or spring onions taste milder and sweeter than mature onions, so keep that in mind when meal-prepping.
Green onion and scallions nutrition
Scallions are alliums, like ramps, onions, garlic, and shallots. According to New York-based culinary nutrition and communications dietitian Jessica Levinson M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., allium vegetables include antioxidants that boost immunity and prevent inflammation and diseases including cancer and heart disease. Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., C.D.N., New York City-based gourmet nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook, says some research have explored allium vegetables for cancer treatment.
Levinson adds that a half cup of chopped scallions provides 5% of the RDA for fibre and 10% for vitamin C.
According to Culina Health writer Jennifer Agha-Khan, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., scallions are rich in vitamin K, C, and folate. “Just one large scallion has nearly 50% of the daily vitamin K requirement,” she says.
How do you buy scallions and green onions?
Due to their cool-weather nature, Glass says these green beauties are usually found in late winter and spring. Depending on your location and weather, you may see them again in the autumn or year-round.
Jones says supermarkets and farmers’ markets sell scallions in bunches. Tse advises checking for firm, rich greens without yellowing. He recommends picking a bouquet with the roots intact for maximum freshness.
Once home, Jones recommends putting them in the crisper drawer with a damp cloth to retain moisture. He suggests standing them in a jar with water in or out of the fridge for a week. Place a bag loosely over top.
Use green onions and scallions how?
Newgent recommends removing the green and white sections of the scallion before eating them uncooked. Because white ends taste stronger than green ends, most recipes follow this rule: “sauté the white part and finish a dish with the green part.”
Glass says most cooks utilise the bottom white and a few inches of the lighter green onion. The darker greens and roots are commonly frozen for veggie stock, she says.
When cooking, these vegetables don’t need much scrape. Glass says most shops and farmers’ markets clean them thoroughly, so a short rinse should do the trick when you’re ready to prepare. Tse says most scallions grow vertically, so they don’t get as much dirt between layers as leeks. If they’re wilted or soft, peel and discard the outer covering.
Here are some of our experts’ favourite scallions recipes:
Salad chops. Glass suggests adding them lightly cooked or raw to tuna or salads for a lighter onion flavour and freshness.
Fill your dishes. Freshly sliced onions add a terrific finishing touch to any dish. Newgent recommends thinly slicing the green section on the diagonal for interest and adding to dips, creamy salads, soups, and egg dishes. She promises they will “add a colourful and flavorful finish on top of worldly foods, including pan-Asian, Mexican and Middle Eastern dishes.”
Frying pancakes. What appetiser is better than a scallion pancake? This is Tse’s favourite way to use scallions, or try Levinson’s zucchini pancakes.
Add to stir fry. Glass adds fresh scallions at the conclusion of a stir fried. They lose their fresh, green flavour if overcooked, so she sprinkles them immediately before serving. Perez recommends cooking the white ends in oil to add onion flavour to meals or marinades. Stock boiling. Glass recommends freezing the dark green tips and bottom roots for future stockmaking.
Replace them with onions. Tse recommends scallions for recipes if onions are too overpowering. For a milder taste, use the whites like any other onion. Puree sauces. Levinson blends scallions into herby sauces like her lime marinade.
Grill-sear them. This one is about spring onions: Newgent and Perez recommend grilling them with your BBQ dinner!